It wasn’t only the soft scent of vanilla and my love of baked goods that drew me in to meet Kate and Barb of Vain Vanilla. Kate started Vain in 2015 as a self-taught cook and a foodie, after receiving a gift of vanilla beans from around the world. And as a fellow woman-owned business, we hit it off right away. In fact, last year I invited them both to the shop for a pop-up and we had a fantastic time! We paired their amazing vanilla with a few of my favorite cook books for an instant classic gift for the food lovers on your gift list. It was a fun way to pay homage to Nell Hill’s beginnings as “Gourmet Corner” many years ago.
And that’s only part of why I’m excited to share Vain Vanilla with the world. By combining high-quality spirits and the best vanilla beans available, Vain offers distinctive flavor combinations, like Tahitian Vanilla Extracted in Cane Rum to Tonga Vanilla in Orange Vodka. Or, if you are a baking enthusiast like me, they even offer a big bottle of their famous baker’s blend. Trust me, you’ll know the difference when you taste it.
In fact, there are all sorts of alternative ways to put your vanilla to use, besides baking. Here are a few fun ideas for you to try out at home:
- – Add them to your cocktails
- – Include them in your bbq & grilling
- – Add a dash to your tomato sauce (…and other savory sauces!)
- – Drop it in your smoothies
- – Drip it into your pot of coffee
Like Kate and Barb, I have always adored baking, but haven’t had as many opportunities these days with two little ones and the shop keeping me busy. So, I couldn’t resist the temptation to see how these ladies heat it up in the kitchen!
Last week Kate and I headed over to Barb’s (gorgeous!) kitchen for a little bit of baking fun and girl time, leading up to one of my favorite holidays – Galentine’s Day! Yes, I said Galentine’s and not Valentine’s. Celebrated on February 13th, it’s a special day to celebrate friendship in all its forms. No, it’s not an official holiday, so you won’t see it popping up on your Google calendar, but it’s a wonderful reminder to honor the people that are always there for you, and shower them with love and baked goods, of course.
When I tell you these ladies can bake, I mean it! While we were at Barb’s house she shared the most delightful (and most beautiful) cookies with us – Springerle! I’ve never had anything like them. Not only do they feature stunning embossed designs using heritage cookie molds, but their soft and chewy centers are covered with a lightly crispy exterior, a bit like the consistency of a macaron. They are made with simple ingredients, and have just the right amount of sweetness. A true labor of love, these confections are a multi-day process. After making the dough and pressing the cookies, they sit and rest at room temperature overnight. It’s not until the next day that they slide in the oven to bake low and slow to achieve the pillowy texture and irresistible crust. They were an indulgent delight that I savored until the last bite!
We added a layer of Valentine sweetness from the shop for our little gathering – I just couldn’t resist! We tucked in an XO budvase, a simply sweet cake (or in this case, cookie) stand, pink glassware, and of course, fresh rosy table linens. Next week we’ll take a look at the whole yummy table we set, complete with conversation hearts.
Just like the ingredients for a great recipe, it takes a lot for a collaboration to come together. Thanks to Barb for opening up her fabulous home for this fun experience (check back soon for a tour of Barb’s house), and to Kate for sharing her passion through her brand, Vain Foods. We used a few of Barb’s favorites for her Springerle, including Vain Vanillas (of course!), Turkey Red Flour from Marion Milling which is located in our very own West Bottoms, spiced and specialty flavored sugars from Spicewalla and the most beautiful molds from House on the Hill. Photographer extraordinaire, Matt Kocourek, was behind the camera (shoutout to his nimble lighting expert, Joe). And what’s a photoshoot without some statement earrings from Rachel and Rose Collection, another great gal duo who popped up in the shop during our Christmas Open House!
I hope you enjoyed our baking adventure! Do you like to bake (or enjoy gobbling up baked goods 😉)? Do you have a favorite recipe to use with vanilla? Please share it with me in the comments! Until next time, happy baking (and decorating)!
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